Intel reveals Core M specs, performance


— 10:31 AM on September 5, 2014

At IFA Berlin today, Intel revealed some new information about its upcoming Core M processors. As we learned in June, the Core M is the first chip based on Intel's 14-nm Broadwell architecture, and it's "purpose-built" for two-in-one convertible tablets. We got to know the floorplan and architecture of the Core M's Broadwell-Y silicon last month, but this is the first time Intel has provided specs and hard performance data for the new chips. It's also our first time seeing a labeled shot of the Broadwell-Y die:

At 82 mm², Broadwell-Y has a smaller footprint than Haswell-Y, which measured 131 mm². However, Intel has increased the transistor count from 0.96 billion to 1.3 billion. As you can see above, a fair chunk of Broadwell-Y's transistor budget was spent on the new HD Graphics 5300 IGP. Broadwell's IGP has 24 graphics EUs and 192 stream processors, up from 20 EUs and 160 SPs in Haswell-Y. Natually, Intel says the new CPU brings some nice improvements in both 3D performance and hardware-accelerated video transcoding speed. (Incidentally, the new IGP is also capable of driving 3840x2160 displays at 24Hz via HDMI.)

For the comparison above, Intel pitted its fastest Core M variant, the 4.5W Core M 5Y70, against a representative of the Haswell-Y series, the Core i5-4302Y. The i5-4302Y is rated for an 11.5W TDP and a 4.5W SDP, or "scenario design power," but Intel told us they "configured it down" to a 4.5W TDP by changing its clock speed. According to the chipmaker, a 4.5W TDP is required to allow for fanless operation inside sub-9-mm tablets with 11.6" displays.

This apples-to-apples comparison shows the Core M outrunning the older Core i5 by as much as 47% in 3DMark IceStorm Unlimited and 82% in Cyberlink MediaXpresso, which supports Intel's QuickSync hardware video encoding block. The Core M is also 11-19% faster in plain CPU tests, including SYSmark 2014, WebXPRT, and TouchXPRT.

In this battery-life comparison, which involved the same two chips as the performance comparo above, Intel says the Core M squeezed anywhere from 54 to 103 minutes of extra run time out of a 35Wh battery.

The biggest gain was in the HD video playback run. Intel attributes much of that improvement to the Core M's integrated audio DSP, which is built into the PCH on the Broadwell-Y package. Branded SmartSound, this audio DSP uses less power than the auxiliary audio solutions Haswell-Y platforms rely upon. SmartSound also adds support for "wake on voice," if you're comfortable with your tablet constantly listening in on you.

Model Cores/
threads
Base
clock
(GHz)

Max
Turbo
clock
(GHz)

L3
cache
(MB)
IGP Base/
max IGP
speed
(GHz)
Max
memory
speed
(MT/s)
TDP
(W)
Core M 5Y70 2/4 1.1 2.6 4 HD Graphics 5300 100/850 1600 4.5
Core M 5Y10a 2/4 0.8 2.0 4 HD Graphics 5300 100/800 1600 4.5
Core M 5Y10 2/4 0.8 2.0 4 HD Graphics 5300 100/800 1600 4.5

Here's a run-down of the Core M family's specs. There are three models, all with dual cores, quad threads, HD Graphics 5300, and support for LPDDR3, LPDDR3L, DDR3L memory running at up to 1600 MT/s. For all three Core M variants, peak Turbo speeds are the same whether the chip is using one or both of its cores. Only the 5Y70 supports vPro and TXT, though.

Also omitted from our table above: the maximum junction temperature, which is the hottest the CPU silicon is allowed to run before throttling. That temperature is 95°C for all three Core M models, down from 100°C for Haswell-Y. Mobile chips like these are usually expected to bump up against their thermal maximums, especially in fanless configs.

Note that Intel has dispensed with SDP ratings this generation. The table in Intel's presentation actually has an "SDP" column that says "NA" for each Core M model. Intel makes it clear that the Core M is a lower-power chip than the versions of Haswell-Y with 4.5W SDPs, which were 11.5W TDP parts.

Along with the new info, Intel shared its expectations for the Core M rollout.

Some of the first Core M-based systems, like the new ThinkPad Helix, have already surfaced at IFA this week. In all, Intel says it's "tracking" more than 20 Core M-based systems from a "broad range of OEMs." The chipmaker expects machines from "~5" of those OEMs to be available next quarter, with the first models hitting stores in October. The "volume ramp," however, won't happen until early next year. That's when we'll see a greater variety of systems—and a greater number of them. The Core M is expected to power everything from "fanless detachables" to "small screen thin convertibles" to "ultra-thin clamshells."

Early 2015 is also when we can expect the first systems based on Broadwell-U. Intel didn't go into a lot of detail about that chip, but the U suffix has traditionally applied to the company's ultrabook processors. We're told Broadwell-U is scheduled to hit production before the year is out.

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